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Wheat yields soar on eastside
Disease pressure hampers valley; Klamath Basin suffers water woes
By MITCH LIES Capital Press August 19, 2010
With dryland wheat yields hitting 90 bushels an acre and some irrigated wheat topping 160 bushels, Eastern Oregon growers are beaming over the 2010 wheat crop.
And then there's the price.
Wheat prices shot up recently after Russia announced it was halting all wheat exports due to its poor crop.
"I fully expected $4 wheat, and it looks like we're going to average $6," Sherman County wheat grower Darren Padget said. "It's good to be wrong."
Other than some poor yields in the Willamette Valley and a spotty outlook in the Klamath Basin, the 2010 wheat crop is coming up roses for Oregon growers.
Oregon State University cereals specialist Mike Flowers estimated yields as high as 20 percent above average in some Eastern Oregon acreage, where the bulk of Oregon's crop originates.
"The cooler weather really helped them a lot," he said.
"In a dryland region like Eastern Oregon, the moisture from mother nature truly was a blessing," Oregon Wheat Growers League Executive Director Tammy Dennee said.
Padget estimated dryland yields in the Wasco area were averaging in the 60-bushel range.
"I think we all had visions of a little more grain, with as much rain as we had, but we're satisfied," he said.
Some growers reported hitting 90 bushels, he said, a yield rare among dryland growers.
Larry Price, a Malheur County wheat grower, was calling the crop one of the best he's ever seen.
Price averaged about 150 bushels on his irrigated acreage, with highs coming in over 160 bushels.
"Only one other time I saw some 165 bushel wheat," Price said.
Cool temperatures in June helped fill out the crop, he said.
"We had 20 days in June where the temperature didn't get over 70 (degrees Fahrenheit), and all the lower canopy tillers filled out real well," Price said. "That's where all the additional yield was."
In the Klamath Basin, where growers this week were preparing to launch their harvest season, uncertainties over water delivery contributed to some delayed planting and uneven irrigation -- uncertainties that are contributing to varied yields.
"It's mixed," Klamath Basin grower Mike Noonan said of the Klamath yields. "Some crops look good. Some have been really hurt."
Yields were down slightly in the Willamette Valley, where rainy, cool conditions in the spring contributed to heavy disease pressure.
"We're about 5 to 10 percent less than what we would have hoped for without the stripe rust pressure," Flowers said.
Especially in the northern end of the valley, growers suffered yield loss to diseases, he said.
"The growers that got out there, treated and got the disease under control did pretty well," Marion County Extension agent Tom Silberstein said. "But in some cases, weather conditions prevented people from treating when they needed to."
Flowers estimated as many as 200,000 acres were planted to wheat in the valley, 6 to 7 times more than in a typical year.
Statewide, Flowers said, Oregon growers planted just under 1 million acres.
"The challenge now is storage," the wheat league's Dennee said. "We don't normally have this volume."
Page Updated: Friday August 20, 2010 02:37 AM Pacific
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